Friday, November 12, 2010

Fiery Furnace

Moab: A little bit about this trip. It's a Los Alamos Mountaineer's trip and as such, one is required to sign a waiver that the club is not to be held responsible if you get hurt or die, and no one is responsible, even if one of the other club members does something to cause you to be hurt or die. You acknowledge that you know what you're doing is dangerous and potentially fatal. The fact that I signed all the little initial places and then my full signature at the bottom kept coming to mind as the first day progressed. But I'm here writing, with some sore upper body muscles, bruises, and scrapes. I'm here still. 

Thursday, I'd planned to go out when the sun came up to photograph the red rocks in the snow before it melted off. It was snowing when we got back to the house Wednesday evening and was supposed to snow during the night. I'm sequestered in a little bunkbed in a nook of the stairwell, like a Harry Potter room.... There are 24 people in this huge house, built like a 3-story quad but all hooked together. It's possible to rent 1/4 or the whole thing. Beds are everywhere. What looks like a cabinet for a large TV is really a Murphy bed in the living room, every couch flops out into a bed. All the people are outdoorsy types who bike, ski, rock I'm in a whole new community as an outsider, but made to feel welcome. It's very cool. They do this kind of thing often. I'm going to do more with them when I can. I'm already signed up for the 2011 4th of July trip to a hut in the Colorado Rockies. 

The day dawned without snow. What I'd seen on the cliffs the night before was already melted, steamed off in foggy puffs that hung suspended in the canyons. We drove into Arches National Park, gratis since it was Veteran's day, and headed toward the Fiery Furnace. I'd driven past that area but never went inside. It's basically fins, one after another with garden like areas between. Bill and Tom brought ropes, just in case.......of course. The group was larger, we'd been joined by Irene, David and their son Lee, Kathleen and her daughter, Elena. 

Elena has quite a crush on Tom, she's 13. She does that cute pre-teen flirting......accidentally bumps into him, pelts him with snowballs gathered from little icy bits still clinging to tree branches, prances up ahead glancing back often. Tom, who's forty something, easily regresses to 14, and flings dirt clods back at her.

We parked in a little pull-off near the fins and followed a stream bed to the base of the sandstone monolith, where everyone walked up a narrow shelf and around a huge boulder with barely a place to put your feet. I took one look at that obstacle and in spite of the thorough thrashing my fears and ego had experienced the day before, I balked. "I'll stay here and just take pictures." Tom would have none of that and pointed to a crevice I could just walk up, so there I was, on top with the rest of them. 

That area is spectacular. From the top one can see miles in all directions. The La Sals covered with snow and capped with clouds, red, brown, and green canyonlands between those mountains and our position, blue sky shining through arches off in the distance, cliffs behind us to the west. We were at the back of the fins, and could walk out easily onto the tops of them and look down. Most were at least 10 feet wide so the fact that the drop off was forty feet or more wasn't intimidating. I should have run the battery down in my camera I took so many photos. We hiked to the very edge of the Furnace on the east and after a nice little lunch break headed back toward the cars. On the way somebody spotted an interesting arch formed on the inside of a fin with the hole pointing up to the sky, instead of the hole going through the fin like they usually do. The mountain goat people scampered up to the top of that fin and looked down through the hole. More nice photos. 

We found our own footprints in the damp soil and easily made our way back to the cars. Elena found a better route which most took, but I'd already slipped down into the crack I'd come up. Everybody was waiting for me at the end, stiffling their laughter. The way they'd come down was an easy walk. It's now named the Sherry Crack. Oh goody. 

Kathleen, Elena and I left early to go grocery shopping. It had been my plan to make a Thai meal, but the best laid plans.......often go awry. I'd brought my own skillets, anticipating the kitchens would not be well provisioned. I was right. Our kitchen was lacking a large soup pot, pots big enough for all the rice, etc. However, the group has the entire house, so we raided the three other kitchens for pans, dishes, bowls, and wine glasses. We managed to make a pretty good dinner. It just took a long time and when the whole group was there, it was crowded. The dinner came out in stages, and between times everyone drank wine. The laughter got loud and the food went pretty fast. It was a great end to another fine day in Slickrock Country.